Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Help the Queen go to Spain!

By now, ya'll have definitely heard me mention my best friend Rebecca (aka "The Queen"), who has been like a second sister to Natalie and me since we were kids. She eats Thanksgiving dinner at my grandma's house, has presents under the Christmas tree (even though she's Jewish), and knows just about every terrible thing about me, but loves me anyway. You should all be so lucky to have a friend like that.

RRB and me, celebrating our 30th bdays in Vegas this past October

I don't have many regrets, but I do regret that when I was given the chance to backpack Europe with Rebecca during Christmas vacation back in college, I opted to stay home. Rebecca was a Spanish major, which is hilarious if you went to our high school and knew how much she raised hell for Senora Weakley. But regardless, she has a passion for the language, and she cemented her love for the culture from that backpacking trip, along with semesters spend in Spain and Argentina, and most recently, during summers, to Mexico. (I don't think the senior trip to Cancun counts.)

A double undergrad major and two Master's degrees later, Rebecca is an incredibly passionate and truly wonderful teacher, currently found molding young minds through Spanish education at Carver High School in Birmingham. Primarily, her students come from low-income, African American families. To say that her work is challenging is an understatement, but she loves it. She thrives there. She has such a heart for reaching out for these kids and spends a great deal of her own money to make sure they get the best education she can provide, plus perks like bringing in authentic tamales and other culturally relevant happenings that enrich their lives. I seriously can't tell you enough how much she inspires me daily with her dedication to education and to these children in particular. I'm constantly in awe, and more than ever, I know that it takes a truly special person to be an educator. (Especially in Alabama's public school system.)

With that being said, Rebecca just found out that she got approved, along with the French teacher there at CHS, to bring 12 kids to France and Spain this summer for true immersion into the cultures they study. The kids were selected through an essay/application process, and all 12 have an interest in using foreign language in their careers. Here's the kicker - they have to raise $45,000, and they only have about a month to do it. It's not impossible, and both the teachers and the kids are fundraising, along with the help of corporate/community sponsors.

Please consider donating just $15 to her cause - every little bit counts. Or if your family or office want to donate to something this holiday season, but have yet to select a charity, I urge you to help out these kids and help my friend. Please forward this on to anyone else you think may be interested in donating or sponsoring.

If you would like to donate, please visit www.adventuresinfranceandspain.com. The deadline is January 20th.

Here's a video made especially for the campaign - these kids are hilarious. My favorite is the girl who says "ohhh the foods, the flavors." I feel  ya, girlfriend. 


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Child of the 90s

Head on over to the Uncontainable Truth to read my latest (written last week - ooops for just now posting this) about how THANKFUL I am to have been a child of the 90s. (Spoiler alert, there's an Eddie Vedder/Chris Cornell song featured, as well as heavy emoting over 90s country... I've been on a kick as of late.)


Also. speaking of the 90s, and for your enjoyment, I give you Evidence of the Alabama Blizzard of 1993:

You're welcome, Internets.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Twilight of My Youth

I'm 30. That happened. Just a few weeks ago, I crossed over into MY THIRTIES. Honestly, I'd been dreading it so badly since the second I turned 29 that it almost felt like a relief to get it over with. I wasn't prepared to really feel a difference, though. On the eve of my 30th birthday, the last day of my 20s, I opted to stay in, watch some Dawson's Creek (my latest Netflix undertaking), and get into bed early. Start my 30s off right, ya know? (Plus the weekend before was busy with celebrations, and Halloween night was sure to be a good night out.) But per my usual, "one more episode" after the next of Dawson ensued, and I was up at around 12:30 when Sara Beth came in to say "hey - you know you're 30 now, right?" I actually felt WEIRD. Older. Changed. Dramatic? Probably. (Hence, the title of this post, a line from a Ryan Adams song... "I am in the twilight of my youth, not that I'm going to remember...")

Someone call the fire department! And yes, that's a Harry Potter scarf. And glow sticks. I celebrated 30 in style.

So in keeping with the Thanksgiving holiday and the past two years of reflecting around my birthday, I give you: 15 Reasons I'm Thankful at 30. (Some of them may repeat from 2011 and 2010, but that just means I'm consistent, right?)
  1. I got to grow up in the 90s. I feel sorry for the kids who grew up in the 2000s. They never will know what it's like to not have a cell phone and to wait at home for a phone call. And while we have our moments of ridiculousness and excess, my generation was truly the last to get to appreciate Disney movies before CGI. And we got to live through 90s grunge and 90s country and not just appreciate it in retrospect. Can you imagine how hard it must be to please kids these days? My poor children are going to hate me some day when I tell them to play outside and listen to some records and not play games all day.
  2. In that same token, I'm grateful I got to live out my high school and college years without them being documented completely by social media. Yikes.
  3. I'm not gonna lie - we don't wrinkle that badly in my family. Plus, I grew up slathering on sunscreen (whereas my mom and grandma sunned wearing pure baby oil for most of their lives). Add to that the fact that I've been using creams and such to ward off aging for years now, and I get a lot of "You look more like you're 25 than 30!" comments. They may be lying or buttering me up, but I'll take it.
  4. I have the best friends in the world. No, seriously. They are better than yours. When you reach my age and some friendships span double decades, you know how to pick 'em and keep 'em. (And that also means that you know the right kind of new people to let in your life and call them true friends, as well.)
  5. I live a mile down the street from my sister. When you live 6 hours away from your family and hours away from most of your best friends, having your sister (who happens to be my favorite person most days) just down the road is quite the perk.
  6. I have a great job that allows me to learn and grow, gives me the flexibility to play (and sleep in), and that challenges me daily.
  7. My family may not be perfect, but they're wonderful. And I never once have to worry that I'm not loved or that I can't fall back on them if the need arises.
  8. I get to be Auntie Lala! So many of my friends are having babies, and I am just loving having these little things to love on (and then give back when they start hollerin').
  9. Auntie Lala and Cameron Rose
  10. Instagram. Without it, I would continue to feel like a big fat failure in the photography realm. Thanks, instant filters and blurs! (I'm sure many actual photographers will cringe at this. Get over it.)
    Thanks, Instagram! (Taken at the Station Inn in Nashville.)
  11. As much as I complain about constant connectiveness and social media (and lack of privacy), I'm so thankful for my iPhone. I love it. It makes my life easier. (For the most part. iMessage certainly can up the anxiety factor when you're waiting on someone to text you back.) I'm also especially thankful for iPhone's voicemail feature. I absolutely LOATHE calling in to check voicemails.
  12. You know the whole "put on your big girl panties and deal with it" phrase? My big girl panties are ON. And I like 'em.
  13. I realize how lucky and blessed I am to have my grandma around (and quite kickin') at the age of 30.  I made her cry a few weeks ago because she called me when I was driving (between Birmingham and Nashville, hardly a scary drive or one I'm not used to), and when I didn't call her back in a couple of hours (I was on the phone!), she was QUITE upset. Called my sister. Got everyone else all worried about me. I got quite an earful about "worrying ole grandma," to say the least. And I could have been annoyed, but gosh darn it, it's nice to be loved.
  14. I don't feel 30. Well, I do feel older. But I don't feel this rush to be settled, married with babies, all that jazz, like I assumed I would. Trust me, I feel it when I, oh, fracture a bone in my leg doing backyard gymnastics. Or when I realize that after a few days of staying up too late, I just really need to catch up on sleep. And don't get me started about how infinitely worse hangovers get year by year. But all in all, I'm a big kid. (And kind of a big weirdo.) I don't think I'll ever lose that.
    I lost my Rocky Horror Picture Show Virginity.
  15. I don't have to apologize or make excuses for what I enjoy, what I believe, what I value, or what want out of life. Not that I should have to begin with, but I feel like there's something about being in your 30s that gives you more authority over your life. There's a great article here about the "Millennials," as they're calling my generation, and what our values are. 
  16. Turning 30 means I've survived my 20s. And let me tell  ya, they were hell. They were fun, but everyone keeps saying that your 30s are the best decade. And I'm starting to believe them. Because by now, I've figured so much more of life out than I had at 20. Figured myself out (for the most part). I've lived independently for a long time now, and I'm really owning it these days. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Austin Lucas

One of the great things about living in Nashville is having instant access (every night if you want it) to quality live music. Another great thing about living in Nashville is that unless you live under a rock, there's a good chance that at least one of the folks playing some of that awesome music happen to be friends of yours.

So with that being said, I want to introduce you to Austin Lucas. If you have any interest in Bluegrass or Americana, you may have heard his name already, and if not, you probably will. Austin is a buddy of mine who I actually met AFTER I was a fan. (Let me tell ya, nothing will make you feel like more of a creepster than admitting to someone that you've been following them on Twitter and Instagram for a year before you even met them. (Thus are the times.) Regardless, give him a listen. Under those tattoos is the voice of a little angel baby, and dude can play the hell out of a guitar. He just got off of tour with Willie Nelson and is currently touring to promote his upcoming album, which he is set to record with Glossary (another local kick-ass band) in December. Check out his website here: http://www.austinlucasmusic.com/

Give him a listen, and if you like, check out his Kickstarter page, and help him out to get this record made. You can even get a sweet karaoke CD in the process. I've seen the dude belt out some Bryan Adams... you don't want to miss out on that.

Here's the kickstarter promo:

And the link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1661892932/austin-lucas-new-studio-album

And some tunes!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Four years later, I'm still smiling.

[Let me say from the getgo that this is written only to share. I have no agenda, except to write out my thoughts, both for myself, and for anyone else who is interested in understanding me better.]

Four years ago today, I wrote a post titled "Why I Woke Up Happy This Morning." 

Four years ago, I was 26 and in grad school. I remember writing the post through teary eyes as I sat in the computer lab at Gorgas Library. I'll admit I was one of the many people who found myself swayed by Obama's charms and the promise of HOPE. I rallied around that "Yes We Can" as hard as I'd rallied around anything else in my life. I loved the idea of helping elect our first minority president. It was a magical night, and I was proud to vote for change in this country.

Four years ago, I voted for Barack Obama mostly based on emotion. 

Last week, I voted again for Barack Obama, and I cried happy tears last night, and I woke up happy again this morning, because I made an informed decision I truly felt it was right. I voted because of my values and ideals, and because I felt like he was the better man for the job. With all of the hot button social issues that directly affect me and my loved ones, it was a no-brainer. As I told someone (jokingly) who asked me if I was a Romney supporter... I have a lot of gay loved ones, I have lady parts, and I am someone who would give my last dollar to help someone else... what do you think? For me, there was no going back.

I voted for Barack Obama because of the same reason many people voted for Mitt Romney: my values centered around faith, morality, family, and community. I don't pretend to understand everything about politics, but I do know what I believe:
  • I believe in helping people who can't help themselves.
  • I believe in equal opportunity, and that with the way the system is now, we don't have it.
  • I believe that no one should have to worry whether they can receive the health care they need without having to declare bankruptcy because of it.
  • I believe that no one in America should literally starve while others have such excess.
  • It's a confusing concept, and one that I wouldn't have gotten to without the many loved ones I have in my life who are gay, but I truly believe that sexual orientation is not a choice, and that we have no right to limit who people can love and especially their legal rights when in a monogamous relationship just like straight marriages.
  • I like Obama's sense of humor and sensibility. I think he is smart. And his wife is a real class act. I also think he's a pretty dang cool person, and I will not apologize for that being something in his favor. 
  • I believe it is unconstitutional to bring religion into the governance of this country. They formed this country on those ideals for a reason, but not just to encompass or inforce one version of Christianity. Sure, faith and morals should steer motivation to do good, but not forced on anyone and certainly not used to outcast or restrict rights. 
  • More than anything, I believe that we aren't here to judge, but to help. In any way we can. In the words of John Wesley, to "Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.” 
And tying it to my personal faith, I believe that that's what God calls us to do. That's what Jesus would have done, right? (I can provide a laundry list of Biblical references to back this up.)

One of my favorite posts from a friend was this:
God is neither surprised or relieved by this election. His plans don't jump the track. And no one man is a savior or destroyer of our country. There are checks and balances on place to protect democracy. Be careful when choosing your words this week. The people you loved yesterday are the very souls you alienate with malice and hateful words. The "other side" is closer than you think and it looks like your family and friends. ~Mary Katherine (Samples) Backstrom
It's true, people. I have been so shocked by the way people have reacted in social mediums, and especially the way people have reacted to me and my thoughts. But here's the thing: I voted as a single, straight, Christian woman who is also a daughter, a friend, and a sister. Just the same as many of you. And I do not appreciate being told that I am "lost" (when not in jest, obviously). Just stop it. Take a minute and stop assuming. Being mean and hurtful and alienating people based on faith is SO not what should be happening right now, and I take offense to it. Can't we all just get along?

"I voted for Regina George because she got hit by a bus."
"I voted for Cady Heron, because she pushed her."

At the very heart of this, we are all Americans. And we are all humans. Sure, there are disappointed people, and I get that. I would have been disappointed had the election gone the other way. But at this point, it is crucial that we do three things (two of which are found right there in the Bible):
  1. Honor our leaders. (Romans 13; and 1 Timothy 2)
  2. Love our neighbors. (No reference needed)
  3. Move on and work together to move forward.
I'm excited. Ecstatic, even. All smiles today. Here's to what I hope will be a good four years! 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I'm voting for Garth

Head on over to The Uncontainable Truth for my latest post on misheard lyrics, Garth Brooks, and how many times we get things wrong.

I based this post on both the (above) picture I took while in New Orleans this past June, but also on a hilarious moment between Sara Beth and me in which we both realized we had completely misunderstood the lyrics to Garth Brooks's "Papa Loved Mama." Not only were there misheard lyrics involved, but we completely missed the point of the entire song. Papa killed Mama! He murdered her DEAD, yall! I had no idea.

It makes me think about all the other times I've been totally surprised to find out I was dead wrong. It's happened quite a few times in my life, and especially when it comes to how I think about people and what I think about God.

On another note, I have lots to talk to you about, and as usual, I've been neglecting my blog. I've recently been to Vegas, Austin, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta, and my Golden Birthday (30 on the 30th) looms ahead. I also got to see ole Garth's show while in Vegas, which has been a highlight of my concert-going career. I'm looking forward to sharing with you soon.

Happy Fall!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mean People Suck, Vol. III

Head on over to the Uncontainable Truth and read my third post in the "Mean People Suck" series. (This one's more about how mean people sucking make the nicer ones that much better.)

Speaking of things that DON'T suck, I can't get this song out of my head. If you aren't familiar with Jason Isbell, he's the former lead singer of the Drive-By Truckers, and an Alabama (Muscle Shoals) native. Love this song.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Pass me my Gold Medal

Like any hot-blooded American, I love the Olympics. There's really nothing like watching the moment that these men and women stick that final landing, or dive into the pool, knowing that this was the moment they had been training their whole lives for. That's the American Dream in its essence. Where you don't have to be famous or wealthy (though I'm sure resources don't hurt). When you are an average athletic teen one week and a superstar with a million Twitter followers the next.

I totally want a Gabby mural on the side of my house.

Every four years, I become a true patriot. I wear as much Red, White, and Blue that I can. I weep when the National Anthem is played and an American stands there on the podium showing off his or her gold medal beneath Old Glory. I'm not sure if it is coincidence or genius planning that made sure the Summer Olympics fall during US Election Years, but either way - they are always a welcome distraction from the campaign ads and attention to all the things wrong with this country. 


Official Olympic Watching Team

I also become a gymnastics expert. Here's the thing, though, which should come as no surprise to you... I'm not so athletic. Sure, I played softball and tennis growing up and was a dancer and a cheerleader. But I was never all that great at any of these things. In fact, I'm proud of my mediocrity, really. At least I enjoy staying active. Nowadays I'm into walking and had recently taken up boxing...

Unfortunately, however, all of that is on hold. For the next 8 weeks, this is going to be my view:

That, my friends, is what happens when someone who was never good at gymnastics when she was a teenager, decides to show off her "skills" in the backyard after being inspired by Olympians. (Olympians who are not only young and sprite, but trained and -- especially important -- warmed up at the very least.) So yeah, I am victim to one of those cliche and terribly ill-advised "Hey Yall - watch this!" moments that ends with (in my case) a big ole brace, crutches, and 8 weeks of immobility. As much as I love America's Funniest Videos, I should have known better.

And for anyone curious - here's my knee in all of its MRI'd glory:

Inside that yellow circle is a fracture (the doc called it a "crack") in my lateral tibial plateau. Meaning, the right side of the top of my tibia on my right leg. I straight-up broke my knee. I'm told this is actually better than a cartilage or ligament tear, which was the original diagnosis pre-MRI, and because it's not displaced, I don't have to have surgery... just therapy and the brace.

The next few weeks are going to be interesting. I'll be getting in physical therapy 2-3 times a week, in between work trips to Austin and Pittsburgh, and fun trips to Atlanta and Birmingham. Fall is my busiest season! Didn't my knee know this is not the time to gimp out?

My poor coworkers, roommate, and sister are the worst off here. They're the ones to check in on. I can be ridiculously needy, and all the men I work with do nothing but enable me. In addition, I'm hopelessly awkward on crutches and have managed to flash one coworker while losing my balance and in one of the more embarrassing moments of my adult life, managed to tuck my skirt into my crutch so that I flashed my entire butt (wearing full granny panties, thankfully) to my BOSS. My adult male boss.

Seriously. I'm sure there will be more stories to come. I did just acquire my temporary handicap parking pass... Life in the fastlane, yall. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Zelda, Vicars, and Dirty Books (Romance Novels you SHOULD read)

I know I'm a little bit late discussing the 50 Shades of Grey hoopla, but I wanted to put my two cents' worth in.

Do not read this book.


I'm not writing this because I'm a book snob. I will never tell you to read only the most respectable or literary of novels. I have spent copious amounts of time in the past few years reading books about fairies and watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My mind adores good, easy guilty entertainment.

I'm not a prude, either. You want to read a book that gets your engines roarin', have at it. I was reading Danielle Steele novels when I was in middle school and am no stranger to stories involving someone's "throbbing member." Get your kicks wherever. No judgment here.

Reminds me of one of my all-time favorite Friends moments: (clip below and full scene here - they wouldn't let me embed it. I am just giggling watching this.)

As Rachel says, "There's nothing wrong with a woman enjoying a little erotica. It's just a healthy expression of female sexuality..."
But really (in Joey voice): "YOU'VE GOT PORN!" 

My friend Boeskool did write a great blog post titled "50 Shades of Skank" about how disgusted he was from the sheer amount of women talking about either 50 Shades or Magic Mike... I can't help with agree with his argument "Sure, men objectify women all the time, and women want to be equal... but 'why would you want to emulate the worst part of a man?'" He had a good point. But that isn't why I'm writing this either.

So why am I so adamant that you put the book down?

Because 50 Shades of Grey is complete crap, and there are soooo many better books that you could be reading right now.

Let me teach you a little lesson about fan fiction. Fanfiction is kinda like Fight Club - (most) everyone knows about it; no one talks about it.

But now that E.L. James has outed it, let's talk about it.

FanFiction is exactly that: fiction written by fans. Fanfiction.net is the most popular site for this, but you can google "Twilight fanfic" and get a billion other sites or sources as well. These have been around forever, and basically are opensource websites and the like that allow any users to try their hand at writing stories. Sometimes legit authors get on there to fill in gaps between books or chapters, or perhaps to offer an alternative ending, but most of the time, these stories are written by your average Joe writers. Some are excellent writers, and some are just God-awful, but most fall in the mediocre range. Anyway - the stories have endless possibilities: you can write extensions of stories, rewrite parts of a book, make a character have a third eyeball that sees through people's clothes. Seriously - whatever. I'm not saying a bad thing about fanficiton here. I've read it. Most of you will go on and read some. It's imaginative and fun to read, especially when you (nerd alert) know characters so well that you enjoy reading about them in different situations and reading beyond the original text. Again - whatever. To each his own. (This isn't limited to books, by the way. Everything from TV shows to movies to musicians to news anchors have been covered... )

So 50 Shades of Grey began as a fanfic of Twilight, in which Bella and Edward were re-imagined outside of the world of Forks, Washington, and, instead, as regular humans with similar traits of the original characters (Edward being dominant, wealthy, and handsome; Bella being clumsy, passive, and annoying). She also, obviously, ramped up the sexytimes. Took that PG-13 rating right up to XXX, something else popular in the fanfic world.

With that being said - remember how I talked about mediocre fanfic? That's all this is! Three full books of mediocre writing on what was already a tired plot. You can look in my blog's history and know that I enjoyed the Twilight books, something I'm loathe to admit now that they've blown up and garnered their following. The book is just not good, yall. And yes - I read them. Mainly from curiosity. And I read all three (just because writing is bad and plot is boring/annoying does not mean that a cliffhanger is still not gonna kill me). But now I'm left with the shame of knowing I wasted all of that time reading something crappy, when I could have been working on my "American Modern Classics" reading list for 2012.

So with that being said - here are some really awesome romantical-type books I highly recommend you pick up instead of 50 Shades of Grey. We're talking good ole romance novels (though some, I guess, are more of the "chick lit" genre.) Regardless, these are all books I've either read myself or that have been so recommended to me, that I can't not mention them. Plus some are way old - gonna have to hit up the used bookstores or libraries, yall. Regardless - get your kicks here. You won't regret them.

Marian Keyes is one of my favorite chick lit writers. She's Irish and hilarious, and most of her books center on the Walsh sisters and their antics (and love interests). Rachel's Holiday centers around Rachel, who has agreed to go to a rehab facility only because she thinks she is going to be pampered and surrounded by the UK's rich and famous. This is not the case. Hilarity and romance ensue. Her other books are great, too.

Cannie thinks that her life is good and well and happy. Until she opens up a women's magazine and sees a column titled "Good in Bed" with the headline "Loving a Larger Woman," written by her ex. Encouraged by the public humiliation, (after going on a much-anticipated and hilarious whirlwind of shame), she re-examines her life, her relationships, and a whole lot else, and does it all while being quite funny and very feisty. Plus she eventually finds a good man who loves her regardless of her size and issues. This one is more serious (I remember crying quite a bit), and can hit close to home when dealing with insecurities... but it's a good one.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Redeeming Love is every good Christian girl's go-to read for romance. It's sold a bunch of copies and stayed on best-seller lists (in Christian fiction) since it was first published in the early 90s. A retelling of the Biblical story of Hosea (re-imagined during the 1850s Gold Rush), Angel is a prostitute who was told from a young age that she was only worth one thing to a man. Until Michael Hosea comes along and proves her wrong. This one is chaste and sweet and sooooo swoon-worthy. Did I just say that? Seriously, though. I reread it often. It's all about how love can change everything. (And how God's love can be mirrored in Mankind.)

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier
This one is a classic. Published in 1938 and considered a classic. The story is told from the viewpoint of the never-named "second Mrs. DeWinter" as she takes her place at Manderlay (the DeWinter estate) and learns to be a wife and inhabinant in the first Mrs. DeWinter's (Rebecca's) wake. Suspenseful and full of romance and dark thriller-type stuff and mystery... I just loved this book.

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
I have not read The Thorn Birds, much to the dismay of almost every single literary (female) friend I have. And there are a lot of them. Published in 1977 and later made into a TV miniseries, Amazon tells me this is a "magnificent saga of dreams, struggles, dark passions, and forbidden love in the Australian outback has enthralled readers the world over." From the way my friends just look at me in outrage when I say I haven't read it, I'm prone to believe it. It's on my nightstand as my next read as I speak. 

The Gift by Danielle Steele
Picture me in 6th grade, hanging out with my buddies, and we're all sneakily passing around romance novels like they're liquor bottles (we wouldn't do that until a few years later). The Gift was the first one I ever got my hands on. I had no idea what romance was all about at the age of 13, but I sure did think this was an epic love story  (and I did reread it later to affirm this). Set in 1950, the story centers on a family who loses a child, and a woman who comes to town and enters into their lives. I won't tell you more because it's kinda hard not to give away the plot, but trust me - it's a good'n.

Outlander Series by Diane Gaboldon
This is another series I have yet to read, but I will never forget the day that Diane Gaboldon came to Davis-Kidd bookstore to sign the latest in the series. Women came in DROVES and just positively were fanning themselves talking about the characters. The first book, Outlander, is described as a "time-travel romance." Apparently there are quite the sexy Scottish warriors. I have no qualms here.

Carolina Moon by Nora Roberts
Nora Roberts is known for writing more mystery/romance-types, and this is my favorite of hers. Set in Small Town, South Carolina, Tory has returned home to a town full of mysteries and betrayals, all of which hit close to home. She finds comfort in the brother of her best friend, who was murdered, and they seek to find her killer. Good stuff, yall. My googling tells me a movie was made, and I'm sure it was pure Lifetime Gold.

What others have you read that you recommend? With the pure amount of crap out there, a girl needs some guidance...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Word Nerd

You can assume from my background in writing, that I like words. I also like grammar. I'm a bit of a snob, really, when it comes to these things. I'm a wordophile. A grammarian. I have both a fascination with these things (an entire shelf of my bookshelf is designated for all things writing-related and filled with titles like Alphabet Jucie and Woe Is I), and a bit of a problem with elitism in this respect. I try my hardest, but I WILL judge you and your poor grammar. (There are exceptions to this. If someone asks "How are you?" and you respond with the incorrect "I'm good..." as opposed to being "well," this is ok and commonly accepted.)

You're probably wondering where I'm going with this.

The title of my blog comes from a comment made to me by a boss of mine (aka "The Silver Ponytail") quite a few years ago. If you know me, you know I'm a talker. Chatty. Verbose. Yeah, yeah. And one day, after chatting with my (then new) bossman, he told me "You know, people would take you a lot more seriously if you weren't so superfluous and overdivulgent with your stories."


I wasn't aware I hadn't been taken seriously up until then, but I assure you it has stuck with me all this time. (Also - he completely made up the word overdivulgent.) Anyway, a friend of mine sent me this article, and I had to share it.

The differences between the words extraneous and superfluous

Extraneous: stems from the Latin term extraneus (related to strange), means “irrelevant” or “nonessential, or “coming from or existing outside.”

Superfluous(from Latin, and literally meaning “overflowing” — the second part of the compound is related to fluid) means “extra, more than is necessary.”

Again, what was my point? Now I have ANOTHER word to describe myself, and my blog, with. 

Yours truly,
Extraneous, Superfluous, and Overdivulgent

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer Reading! (?)

Head on over to the Uncontainable Truth, where I listed my Top 3 Must-Reads this summer. A hint: these ain't your usual beach reads. I'm gearing up for all the awesome books being made into movies this year.

If you haven't checked out the trailer for The Great Gatsby yet, do it NOW. I mean... Baz Luhrmann directing, Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, and that's Jack White singing in the background. What's not to like?

I'm pumped. 

In other news, I have taken it upon myself to read up on what I'm calling "Modern American Classics." We're talking Vonnegut, Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson, Pat Conroy, Chuck Palahniuk. I've found myself hopelessly unable to carry my own in a conversation about any of the aforementioned, and I'm remedying that. Looks like your girl's growing up. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

God and Your Heart

Head on over to The Uncontainable Truth, where I talk about God's pursuit of the heart, Blue Like Jazz, and Pastor Pete's newest book.

I got to see the movie this past weekend, and the scenes I shot made it in! But you pretty much really have to be looking for me. I'll post some screen shots whenever I get my hands on some video from it. Just know that I'm in the cafeteria scenes, wearing either a blue/white striped sweater or green flannel jacket. The movie is doing well in theaters, and has expanded to more for this weekend. You can check it out here to see if it's anywhere near you.

Happy Tuesday!

Edit: Happy Wednesday. Wednesday, Lauren. Anyone know where my mind has run off to?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

An update

Remember when I said that this new job would give me the gift of time, and that I planned to use that time writing/blogging/sharing? Yeah.... about that... I'm busier than ever. I certainly do not stick to working only the 36.25-hour work weeks allotted, and I've somehow found a way to miss not only blogging for more than a month, but also my small group and the library where I volunteer is starting to wonder if I'm ever coming back. Such is life.

Here are just a few things that have taken up my time/thoughts as of late, aside from work:

Up there you have:

  • A baby shower in Birmingham. I can't wait to meet Cameron Rose in May.
  • A beach trip to celebrate a 30th birthday (thanks for getting there first and leading the way, Em!)
  • Snow Patrol, the Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, and Head and the Heart shows
  • Nashville's first spring storm that had me hiding in the bathroom
  • Easter Sunday after church with my sister and one of our closest friends
  • The Tin Pan South Songwriter's Festival
  • A trip to Dino Trek at the Nashville Zoo
  • And some good ole hammocking

I've traveled three weekends of the past six, had my parents and grandmother up to visit, and knocked off some major bucket list items, as well as spent several weekends with all of my girlfriends - something that happens less and less often these days.

I've also been Dave Ramsey'd.
Yep - that's Dave , as in, the financial guru behind Financial Peace University. After years of mismanaging my finances, I've begrudgingly signed on for budgeting and saving. I can't say I'm enjoying it (in fact, I often now have more sleepless nights worrying how I will fit something in to my budget), but I have a plan now. And Lord knows I love a good plan.

Here's what I've been listening to:

The Lumineers - "Ho Hey"
Love this new band. I liken them to Edward Sharpe meets Head and the Heart.

Tired Poney - Get On The Road
Supergroup featuring Lisa Hannigan and Gary Lightbody (of Snow Patrol). This song was playing in the final scene on an episode of Shameless. 

The Avett Brothers - Just a Closer Walk with Thee
They played this live in the show we went to, and it was just amazing.

Kudos, 2012 Q1.

Have plans for the weekend?

I've written about this quite a few times before, but to be brief - on Friday, a movie adaptation of one of my favorite books (as in, the kind of book that changed my life) written by one of my favorite authors will be released. And in this movie, you just might get to see my face on the big screen!

Check here to find a theater if you want to go see me being awkward as an extra (assuming the scenes I shot make it into the movie... if not, it will be worth the watch regardless).

Here's the official trailer:

I'll certainly check back in after I see it!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Let the good times roll...

Seriously. We had a luncheon at work catered by Bro's Cajun Cuisine, which my dad said at Christmas was the most authentic Cajun food he's had since leaving Louisiana. It's good stuff. (Guy Fieri featured it in "Diners, Drives, and Dives." Anyway, we're talking jambalaya, red beans and rice, gumbo... and I only ate three pieces of King Cake. Only three? Yes, it's that good. (And they were tiny pieces.)

SO much for my low-carb diet today!

Anyway, I hope you all are enjoying your day, wherever you are and whether you celebrate Mardi Gras or the Lenten Season. Head on over to the Uncontainable Truth, where I talk about the "reason for the season" and my plans for Lent.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dead Man's Bones

Watch this.


There are so many things going on here I'd like to point out.

  1. Badass drums/piano rise and fall with creepy lyrics reminding me of something that would be playing in the background of an Edgar Allan Poe story.
  2. A choir (all songs with a choir get bonus points)
  3. A choir consisting of adorable children in Halloween costumes
  4. The ending with the boy hitting the cymbal with his pirate's sword?
  5. That voice. Love that voice. Oh, and that voice belongs to Ryan Gosling, who I'll admit I do enjoy as an actor and person in general. I won't state the obvious and say that he's nice to look at, too. Oh wait, I just did. 
Am I the only person who didn't know until today that he has a legitimate band? Check out the Dead Man's Bone's  YouTube page here for more. 

I also love this one. 

Edit: After further investigation, I am totally buying their 2009 album. 

Apparently the project was formed from a mutual obsession with monster music, ghost stories, and Disney's Haunted Mansion ride. According to Amazon, "Also incorporated into the project was foley such as tin foil for rain, creaking doors, paper ripping for thunder, foot steps, screaming, crying, waves, werewolf howling, boat noises, crickets, etc....Dead Man’s Bones finished their record with the L.A.’s Silverlake Conservatory Childrens Choir..."

Seriously. This was meant to be.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cupid Valentino

I don't have many thoughts about Valentine's Day, to tell you the truth. Perhaps it is because for the past 10 years or so, I've either been single or dating someone long-distance, so it hasn't been significant for me. I'm usually one to pick up a shift (it should come as no surprise that the big VDay is a good night to work in the restaurant business). But today is special!

Today you can see my name in print (well, virtual print) as part of my friend Christen's e-book, God's Love For Me, at the Uncontainable Truth. You can download a copy by checking out the post here

I enjoyed getting cheesy and writing about the beach (one of my "God Places") in a short essay called "If it's the Beaches." (Title inspired by my favorite love song, below.) I'm very excited about this and looking forward to reading all of the other contributors' stories. I hope you enjoy!

So on this Valentine's Day, whether you're single or taken, bitter or hopeful, any or all of these things, I personally hope above all else that you realize.... don't get too caught up in it. I've been reminded too much recently by losing loved ones too early that you should tell the people you love that you love them every day. You should buy them cards and candies, show affection. Say I'm sorry. All of those things. So let today be a happy reminder of that. 

And on a lighter note, here are some good things I've come across:

My friend Boeskool's hilarious and quite poignant list of Five Ways to Really Love Somebody. Good stuff.

ThoughtCatalog's Happy Valentine's Day to my Best Friend. I really wish I'd written this one, because I can't convey how much it describes the relationships between myself and my closest girlfriends.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

An Update

If I could describe 2012 in one word, so far it would be challenging. But not in a bad way.

I shared earlier that I started a new job, and I'm delighted to report I am not in any way bored. In fact, I'm busier than ever, and I've been able to truly push myself and learn more than I ever have, professionally speaking. I've also been given more responsibility (and visibility, as in, making presentations and the like) than I'm used to. In other words - I'm busy. And I'm enjoying it. And at the age of 29, after 10 years of being out of high school with two degrees and 7ish years of professional experience on my resume, I finally feel like I'm in a big girl job and fully living up to my (professional) potential. Which is really a fun thing.

In addition, someone pointed out that every year I say this is the year I get healthy. And it's true. I've been saying so since I was about 15 or so. That adds up to a whole lot of un-follow-through. But this year IS different! Fit by 30 is the motto. So far, I've given up all sodas (I could write an Ode to Diet Coke, but I won't bore you with that). I only drink water and tea or coffee. I've also been seeing a personal trainer and going to boot camp classes. My trainer Terry and I had a special bonding moment last week in which I had to pause to puke mid-workout. That was fun. But I realized I had never truly pushed my body hard enough to get there before, so it was a good feeling. Afterward.

Diet-wise, I've become addicted to adding spinach or kale to my smoothies, and I try to have a serving of greens with every meal, as well as good fats. I think I've ingested more almond butter and avocado than ever in my life, and fewer bad carbs. I'm sure there's an official name for it, but I call it the "Whole Foods Diet." Basically eating as little as possible of things that have been processed in any way and sticking to fresh meat and veggies, fruits and fats. Water and tea (and coffee). I've been doing a lot of cooking and preparing my own meals. Waking up earlier to cook breakfast, eating salads and no take out, all that jazz.

You see? So perhaps you will be impressed and not judge me when I tell you what else has been taking up my time:

Yep. Buffy the freaking Vampire Slayer. As in, Sarah Michelle Gellar in the 90s. Not to mention Seth Green before he was Kenny on Can't Hardly Wait and Alyson Hannigan pre-American Pie and HIMYM. And David Boreanaz pre-Bones as her current (as of Season 3) love interest, Angel. Breaking my heart, people. You don't understand the shame I feel when I realize I'm on episode 45, and that means that (with 45-minute episodes), I've spent almost a work week watching Buffy battles truly the most ridiculous vampires and monsters I've ever seen. But I love it. It appeals to the side of me that loves the teen angst, has a special place in my heart for the 90s, and appreciates good, hokey monsters and film. I will not apologize.

I've also been reading this:

Hipster Christianity is a very interesting book by Brett McCracken in which he discusses the Church (as in, the Universal Church)'s need to be cool, and whether or not that is a good thing. He's talking beyond the emergence of rock bands and "community groups" instead of Sunday School, but the idea of changing or slacking in principles to appeal to the masses. I'm not far into it, but I'm intrigued so far. Living here in Nashville, as someone supremely uncool among the hipsters he speaks of, leads me to fully understand from the getgo what he's talking about. And I have a feeling I'm going to have some arguments. But we'll see in due time.

"Hey - I met you... and you are not cool."

AND I've already gotten to mark something off of my 2012 bucket list after seeing Ryan Adams play a solo gig at the Palace Theater in Louisville. DRA didn't allow any filming, nor did he allow phones to be out at all for texting or calling, so I don't have any footage to share, but I will say this: the man is BACK. And he sounds better than ever. Seems that marriage has been good for him, as he was undoubtedly more laid-back, rolling with the punches (and song requests), and making up songs on the spot about black metal cats. Just Ryan, a guitar, and a harmonica. And I will say that not being distracted by a sea of cell phones, as well as my exhausting need to document while at a concert that often leads me to miss whole songs while trying to troubleshoot my camera, changed my entire viewing experience (thanks, Ryan).

Elizabethtown, KY
Plus, I got to experience a true moment of happiness listening to the Elizabethtown soundtrack while driving through Kentucky. It was one of those moments when the sun is shining, you're sitting in the car with a best friend and singing your hearts out to the soundtrack of your favorite movie (something that bonded you with this person to begin with), and you don't have a care in the world. Those moments really happen, people. They aren't just for movie montages.

This business is no joke (from the soundtrack):

Celebrate the differences, I celebrate the songs you sing...

Perhaps when my brain and body slow down from the whirlwind of 2012, I'll have something insightful to say. But for now, at least I can offer an excuse for my lack of blogging.

Oh, How He Loves Us So...

Gods love for me ebook

In just a few days, my friends Christen and Raleigh over at The Uncontainable Truth will be releasing a Valentine's Day e-book: God's Love for Me.

It'll be a free download, and guess what... yours truly is a contributor! Read on here, where Christen talks about her inspiration for the book, mainly how often we overlook that the greatest love story in our lives is the one between God and the World (ie, all of us), and a call for focus on remembering that and paying attention to all the ways He loves us. As I've said before, I tend to be an "all about ME" person, so this was especially poignant for my life.

(Speaking of poignant, here's some David Crowder Band for you:)

I hope you all are doing well and enjoying your 2012 so far!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Honey, are you feelin' kind?

Those are some lyrics from "Kindness," a new track off of Ryan Adams's latest, Ashes and Fire. (Which I'll be seeing him perform live in less. than. a. week.)

I want to direct you over to the Uncontainable Truth today, where I have a followup to my first post there, which was called "Mean People Suck." Today's post is about the opposite: why Kind People Rock. 

And I talk about Jim Henson and Ma Otter. What's not to like?

Ma Otter from Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

Here's a little story about how Emily Cutchen became Grandma.

76 years ago today, Emily Sue Cutchen was born in Newville, Alabama.

15 years later, Sue (as she was being called) would marry her high school sweetheart, Don Pitts. Don, a baseball player, was a few years older than her, already out of high school and about to enlist in the US Air Force.

And a little more than a year after that, at the age of 16, she gave birth to her one and only child, Donna Sue. (Be sure to take note of the clever joining of names.) Since Don was away fighting wars and all that jazz, Donna Sue and Sue were very close. They had many adventures and enjoyed a mother/daughter relationship envied by many.

Sue and Donna Sue showing some skin at the Beach. 
Jump to 1979: Donna Sue had just finished her Masters in the big city of Birmingham and returned to Dothan, close to home, to practice as a Speech Pathologist. She gets set up on a blind date with Fred, a charming baseball player-turned-salesman, fresh from New Orleans (with the accent and olive skin to prove it). She marries him six months later, mainly, she jokes, because he looked like Burt Reynolds.

Fred and Donna Sue, late 70s/early80s
Just a few years later, at the young age of 46, Sue became Grandma, a name she is known to by many, when Donna Sue had her first daughter, Lauren (that would be me). And for a second time two years later, when Natalie was born.
Lauren, Natalie, and Donna Sue... sometime in the 80s.
And a good example of my sister's former mullet and Mom's feathered 'do. 

The years between 1984 and the present have been good and bad, brought joy and tears, as life tends to do. My grandmother has buried not only her parents and her in-laws, but 12 older brothers, sisters, and their spouses; a few nephews; and in 2009, her husband of nearly 60 years. But also in those years, she's been the matriarch of a family. "Aunt Sue" to numerous nieces and nephews (you can imagine how many when you have 12 siblings) and "Grandma" to everyone else. She's the storyteller. The cooking teacher (and the primary chef). The daredevil, forcing her not-yet-teenage granddaughter (that would be me) onto roller coasters and the double-decker Ferris wheel at the Peanut Festival...  just so she didn't have to ride by herself. The Rummy Coach. The listener. The supporter.

She is also one of the primary people in my life who have never made me doubt that I have been loved as much as any little (and now slightly older) girl can be loved. Grandma is always on my team. There aren't all that many folks I can say that about. It's the stuff of a good therapy session.

Natalie, Lauren, and Grandma - Christmas 2010

So Happy Birthday to my Grandma! And Cheers to many, many more!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Thought Catalog

Sara Beth discovered, and has been daily sending me posts from, a site called Thought Catalog. And now I have to share with anyone reading this. Because seriously, every once in a while I think to myself "Did I get up and write this in my sleep and post it under a fake name?" Not because I think I'm so brilliant or as good of a writer, but mainly because so many of these writers share my interests (Parks & Rec, Bright Eyes), but also seem to think like me. For example, "A Non-Exhaustive List of Things that Trigger My Anxiety." Get out of my brain!

The following comes from a recent post: 20 New Year's Resolutions for 20-Somethings (by Jessie Rosen)

  1. Before you status update, Tweet, Tumble or Instagram, pause and say to yourself, “is it entirely necessary that I share this morsel of thought with my entire social network?”and if the answer is not, “yes, I absolutely must,” then step away from the Internet.
  2. Know which candidate you’re going to vote for in the upcoming presidential election, and know why.
  3. Enough with the 14-day juice cleanses. If you want to lose a little weight quickly, eat less and exercise like crazy. If you want to lose a lot of weight slowly, do whatever Jennifer Hudson did.
  4. If you really like the person you’re hooking up with and would like them to be your boyfriend/ girlfriend, find a way to tell them, and hope for the best. If you don’t and wouldn’t, stop.
  5. Find a way to save approximately 300 dollars and spend it on a flight to see a friend or family member who lives far away.
  6. Please stop liking the Kardashians, all of them. It’s not helping anyone, least of all the Kardashians.
  7. Spend less than or equal to the money you earn each month.
  8. Wear clothes that fit you, especially to work.
  9. Call someone on the phone at least once a week, and speak to him or her for at least ten minutes.
  10. Start preparing now to get over the fact that Facebook is probably going to change again in six months. You’re not going to deactivate your account. You don’t know how.
  11. Wait 30 seconds before you look up a fact you can’t remember on your phone, and try to remember it using your brain. This is what the olden days were like.
  12. Replace one terrible reality show you’re currently watching with one wonderful scripted show currently available on television.  Swap suggestion: Real Housewives of Anywhere for HBO’s Enlightened.
  13. Try that food you think you don’t like but have never actually tried, unless it’s brussels sprouts. They really don’t need any more attention.
  14. Cut one person out of your life who you truly do not like and add one person who you truly do. Note: not on Facebook, on Earth.
  15. If you’re still blacking out regularly, you should stop.
  16. Volunteer once over the next 90 days.  You’ll feel really good about it, and probably end up volunteering again over the next 275.
  17. Tell someone who you love that you love them on a more regular basis. To their face, not in a text.
  18. Back up your entire online life onto an external hard drive, especially your photos.
  19. Crap or get off the pot. This applies to whatever thing you’re not doing that you should just sack up and do already.
  20. And in the eternal words of Tom Haverford, “TREAT YO SELF!”
See? Check it out for daily entertainment/enlightenment. They've got some smart chickies writing for them over there.